Wednesday, August 31, 2011


There have been all number of unwelcome gimmicks introduced into football in recent times which have all helped in their own small way to make the greatest game in the world just that bit less palatable; the elongated Champions League group stage, qualification draw ceremonies which go on for several trumped up hours, Soccer AM's banal succession of catchphrases, Fanzone and the concept of interaction with supporters, Andy Townsend's tactics truck, rumblestix. I could go on. The most irritating development of them all however must surely be the Transfer Window and the false economy it brings with it.

Pushing up transfer fees to extraordinarily depressing new heights every six months and favouring - naturellement - the big clubs at the top of the food chain who can pick and choose who they wish to do business with and when they wish to do it, simply by flashing a fistful of dollars in the direction of brain-washed 20-somethings and thus ruining the preparations of their rivals into the bargain, the transfer window is a massively unwelcome distraction. I wouldn't mind so much if this particular circus packed its trunk and trundled off to the jungle at the end of July, allowing us to start the new season concentrating on the actual football rather than interminable agent tittle-tattle, but for some ludicrous reason it is allowed to belch it's bloated breath all over my late-summer supper, ruining the ambience for us simple conossieurs who just wish to sample a fucking football match, not the soddiing Monopoly game sideshow.

The transfer window is a bloody nuisance for clubs like Reading and frankly it is all so bloody unfair. As a club we are not major movers and shakers, instead we wait all summer while our manager prepares his squad diligently. The first game comes and goes and yet by the end of the month we have by now lost our top scorer from last season and the clock is ticking for us to find a replacement with the season already well underway. After the phoney war of pre-season, the real thing has begun at last but trying to fathom out how your team are going to shape up is actually a waste of bloody time because by the time the first international break comes along you already have - through necessity of richer clubs poaching your prized assets - 2 or 3 newbies in the squad even from that first game, and those opening salvos are effectively rendered meaningless. Utterly unsatisfying for the genuine fan and the knock on effect is depressingly obvious and equally distasteful; Reading went on to pinch Le Fondre from Rotherham in their quest to find a goalscorer, leaving the Millers precious little time - as well as proportionately less mullah - to find some sort of miraculous replacement. In the words of an old music hall song: it's the same the whole world's the poor that has to's the rich that gets the pleasure, aint it all a bleeding shame.

Sticking in the craw yet further is the hyped-up hysteria the closing of this drafty window generates. For a country which is lazily obsessed with celebrity gossip, far too many amongst us salivate over the SKY Sports rumour mill, indulging in this sham by lapping up tedious rumour-and-counter-rumour of Peter Crouch spotted in Long Tall Sally in Stoke and Per Mertesacker observed chewing on Bratwurst in Islington by 'supporters' who are in reality most probably agents posing as punters in order to generate a bit of desperate last-minute interest. This sickening ballyhoo is self-perpetuating because SKY only serves to feed the lust of the foaming-mouthed modern fan; see for example those regular cut-aways to SKY's regional reporters outside Premier League grounds on a cold, otherwise football-free Wednesday night surrounded by gurning gimps who have otherwise no right or reason to be there, staring down the camera triumphantly singing way past their bedtime #we've got Robinho, we've got Robinho# providing a droll soundtrack to this pantomime. Pass the sick bag.

And the hyperbole reaches fever pitch when the excitable jock Jim White takes the mic. Jim is as subtle as a Jim Davidson set and infinitely more offensive with his OTT barking over the remotest tiny development on this, his big night. SKY Sports News understands that Scott Parker's car has a puncture! Over to some cunt at the other end of the studio holding two mobile phones who has just received a text from Eric Hall! All the while, the final countdown appears omionously on the right hand side of screen; only 4 minutes and 13 seconds to conclude the deal to bring Adi Viveash to the club. The coup-de-grace, incredibly and with no discernable sense of irony, is the cut to Big Ben at the advert break, as if the entire concept and context of Time itself needs to be explained and commented on by SKY's roving army of rabid reporters.

Without wishing to go on and suggest that Borstal was Best and that the Birch shoule be re-introduced, I have no qualms in curmudgeonly venturing to propose that the old days were infinitely more gratifying. In 1998, injury-ravaged Reading snapped 7 players on transfer deadline day in March. How did we learn about this? A brief passage of analogue on Ceefax, a quick call to Gowrings Royaline and a sneaky peak of the back page of the Evening Post. No speculation over medicals, personal terms and counter-bids. Just the facts. Job done. And of course back then players were available for transfer from June through to March, thus the brinksmanship and panic buying was less prevalent and the whole transfer market shebang infinitely less intrusive and irritating. Shame on you if you indulge yourself in all this blather. The game's Presbytarian, upstanding founding fathers would be wringing their top hats.


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